Warsi investigation 'to pick up loose ends'

 

An inquiry in to whether Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi breached the ministerial code will pick up any loose ends, Prime Minister David Cameron said today. 

Lady Warsi is accused of breaking the rules when she was accompanied by business partner Abid Hussain on an official visit to Pakistan.

Mr Cameron immediately faced criticism yesterday when he announced the investigation by Sir Alex Allan for not announcing a similar inquiry in to whether Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt broke guidelines in his handling of News Corporation's bid to take over the satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

But today, the Prime Minister defended his decision not to order an investigation by Sir Alex, his independent adviser on ministerial interests, in to whether Mr Hunt broke the rules too.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Cameron said: "They were two very different cases. In the case of Jeremy Hunt, obviously all of that has been gone through by the Leveson Inquiry.

"In the case of Sayeeda Warsi, I am very happy with the explanation she has given. She has apologised for the mistake she has made but I think it right for Sir Alex Allan just to see if there are any loose ends that need to be picked up. It's no more than that."

Mr Hussain attended Lady Warsi's July 2010 visit to Pakistan, soon after she had joined the coalition Cabinet.

In her letter of apology to the Prime Minister, she said "community activist" Mr Hussain was among a number of members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK who had assisted the British High Commission with outreach events in Pakistan in July 2010.

Although it was "widely known" that he was her husband's second cousin, she said, she had not realised the need to declare that they also had "a common business interest as minority shareholders in a small food company".

"I sincerely regret that I did not consider the significance of this relationship with Mr Hussain when the arrangements for the visit were being made. In retrospect, I accept that I should have made officials aware of the business relationship between Mr Hussain and myself, and for this I am sorry," she wrote.

"I regret that this failure may have caused embarrassment to the Government."

Mr Cameron responded that she should have "proactively" raised the business interest she shared with Mr Hussain with the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office.

He wrote: "The Ministerial Code requires ministers to ensure no real or perceived conflict between their official responsibilities and their personal interests.

"However, as you say, you did declare to the Cabinet Office your own interest in the company, and I note too the other points you make - in particular that this was not a trade-related visit, and Mr Hussain did not gain any financial or business advantage from his involvement in voluntarily assisting the High Commission with the event.

"This seems to me to be important to take into account in responding to this issue. I accept too your apology for your error and for any embarrassment to the Government.

"There are clearly some lessons for future handling and I have asked Alex Allan, my adviser on Ministers' interests, to consider the issues that have been raised with respect to the Ministerial Code and to provide advice to me as rapidly as possible."

PA

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